Plus, UFC 286 predictions.
Kayla Harrison’s hand was raised in her first 15 MMA fights. This followed her impressive career in judo, where she won two Olympic gold medals. Even with all this success behind her, Harrison believes her absolute best is still ahead of her.
A two-time PFL women’s lightweight champion, Harrison (15–1) suffered her first loss in November to Larissa Pacheco. This trip to such foreign territory—when it comes to competition, Harrison was no stranger to losing—was more rewarding than she ever imagined.
“The loss was like a spiritual awakening,” says Harrison. “For me, for the longest time, it was either I was going to be the greatest of all time or I was going to die of the shame of failure. I would tell myself, if I wasn’t winning, I was worthless. I was fighting to win love. That’s how I felt since I was a kid. If I wanted respect, then I had to win. If I wanted love, then I had to win.”
The five-round decision loss to Pacheco introduced Harrison to a whole new level of resilience and strength. Just 32 years old, she has the opportunity to reach new levels of success – and now, like almost every other great of the sport past and present, she will look to overcome the loss and show an even greater determination in her attack.
“I’m still alive and the people who cared about me still care about me,” Harrison says. “I’m worth a lot more than what I do in the cage. So it was a blessing, and I’m much happier. I have peace from God.
“I have moved on. Im healthy. The loss wasn’t because I didn’t train hard. I put in the work, the game plan was solid, but it just wasn’t my night. The lowest moment is what I needed to get to where I need to go.”
At the earliest, it will likely be a few more months before Harrison competes in the next game. That doesn’t mean he’s away from the sport. Later this evening, Harrison will be a studio guest for the PFL Challenger Series on Fubo Sports.
“If I can’t be in the cage, I might as well be by his side helping the next generation of fighters,” Harrison says. “It’s a great opportunity and I love this series. It gives fans a chance to participate as well. I hope to see a very technical race. I’ve coached and commented before, and I’m looking forward to being a judge this time around.”
Harrison has two fights remaining on her PFL contract. As for her next fight, she is patiently waiting for the chance to compete freely. She won’t be weighed down by the expectations of others, but rather will focus on delivering the best possible version of herself.
“You can’t rest on your past wins, but you can’t rest on your past losses either,” says Harrison. “Professionally, it’s yet to be seen, but losing to Larissa might have been the best thing that happened to me personally.
“I am financially blessed. I have two beautiful adopted children and I am taking this time to be as present as possible with them. I’m still in the gym every day and I’m getting better, I’m working on the areas I need to work on — and I’m going to stay patient and keep working.”
Edwards or Usman?
Kamaru Usman dominated the vast majority of his last fight against Leon Edwards at UFC 278. Before that, he defeated Edwards by unanimous decision in the three-round fight in 2015. For nearly seven of their eight rounds, Usman was the superior mixed martial artist.
However, this is not the whole story. Edwards knocked out Usman with a head kick in their fight last August, taking the welterweight title and writing his name in the UFC history books. It was an amazing moment, one that no one – especially Usman – saw coming.
Now the two fighters meet for their trilogy at UFC 286. In addition to the title, there is also a defining moment of their careers at stake. If Usman wins, he will prove that Edwards should never be considered his equal. But if Edwards wins, it will certainly hurt Usman’s legacy as one of the greatest welterweights of all time, especially with two losses to Edwards hanging over all of his successes—and that officially makes Edwards the best welterweight, bar none. doubt, in the world .
After watching their last two matches, my pick is Usman. He’s just too dominant and the sample size backs it up. If Usman is healthy—all reports are that he’s not suffering from any kind of lingering injury—and remains patient, then I can’t see Edwards pulling off a second monumental upset.
The Pick ‘Em Section:
UFC 286 Middleweight Title Fight: Leon Edwards (c) vs. Kamaru Usman
Choose: Kamaru Usman
UFC 286 Lightweight: Justin Gaethje vs. Rafael Fiziev
Choose: Justin Gaethje
UFC 286 middleweight bout: Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena
Choose: Gunnar Nelson
UFC 286 women’s flyweight bout: Casey O’Neill vs. Jennifer Maia
Choose: Jennifer Maya
UFC 285 Middleweight: Marvin Vettori vs. Roman Dolidze
Choose: Marvin Vettori
Last week: 2–3
Record 2023: 24–15
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.